Praise Mugisho ends her interview by reading two poems she has written about journey and future. Hers has been an incredible journey; her future not always bright, but now is promising. “Even though life can drag you like a stone, you don’t end up being crushed,” says Praise.
She was born in the Republic of Congo, but because of political instability, she was forced to flee to Uganda in 2009, at 14, along with her mother, two of her mother’s siblings, and her own younger siblings, Heureuse, then 10, and Isaac, 3. “I remember my dad used to tell me I had to protect my siblings and be a good leader. I forgot I was a child. I had to sacrifice my education and my youth.” She worked in a wholesale market selling cosmetic baby products. “Deep in my heart I had some regrets, but I was proud to see how mature I was becoming.” Her father, a pastor, had been separated from them, and came to Uganda several years later. He was ill and sadly died in 2015.
The family had already started planning resettlement. “We didn’t decide to come to Canada; Canada chose us,” says Praise, explaining that she knew little about her new home. “I just knew Canada was in America and maybe it was close to the North Pole!” Permission to leave in 2016 created great relief. “It was like we had been given a new page; we’d be taking back what life took from us for all these years.”
Praise’s visa was delayed so the family left without her. She followed a day later, full of trepidation about her new community. ISANS came to the rescue. “It’s like a motherhood; ISANS embraced us with love, giving us certainty and peace. There was someone to take care of education for us. My mother could breathe.”
Praise took classes to learn about Canadian culture, but was so inspiring she was hired as an ISANS Life Skills Worker. “It helps you to have someone who speaks your language. The shoes you are wearing, she has worn too.” Praise participated in workshops on law, taxes, and banking. She took the Introduction to Nova Scotia workshop and became a co-facilitator in the youth support program and helped out with anti-violence projects, and outdoor activities. “I feel like ISANS is my home.”
Her mother is studying English. Isaac is in school, and Heureuse just completed her first year in neuroscience at Université Sainte-Anne. The multilingual Praise enrolled in adult school, achieved her high-school diploma, and will study nursing at Sainte-Anne in the fall. “We are really happy because what every family needs most is security, stability, and safety. ISANS has given me wings to fly so high! I have learned the meaning of commitment, trust, and confidence—and the meaning of a shoulder to cry on,” says Praise. “We all have a journey, but it’s not all bad. It turns out to be beautiful when you stand back and look where you came from.”